Thursday, April 29, 2010

Easy, Affordable Ways to Add Character to your Rental Home or Apartment

I received this comment on my last post "Easy, Affordable Ways to Add Character to a Newly-Built Home"...

Photobucket I thought I'd tackle Gail's dilemma here today!


First off, check with your landlord to find out whether or not they're open to the idea of you personalizing your place a bit.

Sometimes all you gotta do is ask!



If you're not against re-painting when you move out, ask your landlord if they'd mind if you painted the place in colors that appeal to you.
They really have nothing to lose.
They either keep your deposit, or they get the place back with a fresh coat of paint in the color of their choice.

And if you reeeeally wanna make it hard for them to say no, put together a Polyvore "mood board", so they can actually see what you're gonna do to the place.
I've never actually used Polyvore to create a mood board, but I know several people that have, and I hear it's quite addicting.

(I created this one in Photoshop as an example of the kind of thing you could present to your landlord.)




If you've convinced your landlord to let you paint, and you're going to be re-painting when you move out, you might as well ask about hanging things like art and curtain rods too. Assure your landlord that you'll fill any holes you make before you re-paint and move out of the place.



If your landlord won't budge on the curtain rod issue, maybe you can just switch up your blinds. Assuming you obtain permission to remove them, carefully take down your existing blinds and store them somewhere safe so they don't get damaged.
You might try storing them inside large Tupperware containers underneath your beds...


Keep all of the window hardware and screws in Ziplock bags inside the Tupperware containers, so everything stays together, and you don't have to come out of pocket to replace anything when you move out.

As for what you replace your blinds with, well, that's up to you of course!

A lot of times rental properties are outfitted with unattractive, white metal blinds (or at least the ones I lived in were!). If that's the case in your rental property, and you want to cover your windows with something a bit more colorful and textural, you might want to check out these bad boys, available at Lowes...


They're $11.96 each, and they come in light, medium and dark tones.
You can even get fabric privacy liners for them if that's an issue where you live.

I'm a big fan of adding as much texture as possible to the vertical plane- and wood or bamboo blinds are a great way to do that!



Another fabulous, renter-friendly product that's recently come on the market is removable wallpaper.
While conventional wallpapers require steaming or chemical removal products, removable wallpaper comes off easily, and won't damage your walls.
Removable wallpapers are also a breeze to install.
All you have to do is to clean the walls before applying the paper.
Then just wet it- and set it!
If a crease develops during the application process, you just pull the paper off, smooth the crease, and then re-apply it.

And according to manufacturers, removable wallpaper is breathable- so moisture won't ever get trapped underneath it. That means no mold or mildew problems- yay!
They also say that removable wallpapers won't tear during removal, which makes them reusable too. Double yay!

Sherwin Williams offers several lines of removable wallpapers to choose from.
You can find them HERE.

These are some of my favorites...

Manufacturer: Warner
Pattern Number: SW1TC7418


Manufacturer: Blue Mountain Wallcovering
Pattern Number: SW0SD16733
Color: WHITE


Manufacturer: Blue Mountain Wallcovering
Pattern Number: SW0SD16623


Manufacturer: Brewster
Pattern Number: SW657-2943


They even have solid-colored ones too, which is great for renters who aren't allowed to paint...

Manufacturer: Seabrook
Pattern Number: SW5WN615


Remember the photo I showed in my last post, of the brown bathroom with Johnny Cash lyrics all over the walls?



Well, renters can re-create that look too!
Just use some solid-colored removable wallpaper, and some removable vinyl wall words...


When you move out, everything will come down easy-peasy, and you can even put it all back up in your next place if you want to!



Another option you might consider is covering a wall or two with fabric.

Using fabric on your walls may sound intimidating, but I've read lots of articles about it online, and most folks don't think it's all that difficult.

This room, featured in Southern Accents magazine shows a room covered in an ultra graphic fabric...



- It's a two-person job.

- It isn't any messier than regular wallpaper.

- The fabric won't bleed onto the wall as long as you wash it first.

- It isn't anymore of a fire hazard than drywall or wood is.

- Always use a light-weight cotton fabric, nothing sheer or stretchy.


- Light-weight cotton fabric
- Liquid fabric starch
- A sponge
- A pan
- A plastic dropcloth


Wash the wall to remove any dirt or film.

Measure from the floor to the ceiling and add a couple extra inches so you have an inch or so overlap at the top and bottom that you can trim off when you're done.
Cut the fabric accordingly. If your fabric has a design, be sure to match the design before cutting the next panel, just like you'd do with wallpaper.

Pour liquid starch into a clean pan. Apply the starch to the top half of the wall with a sponge. (Make sure to use a plastic drop cloth on the floor where you're working.)

Using push pins to hold the fabric temporarily in place at the top, smooth your fabric into place (only at the top). Using your sponge, apply more liquid starch to the wall underneath your temporarily tacked-up fabric, until you get down near the bottom of the wall.

Then, apply more liquid starch to the topside of the fabric, brushing and smoothing the fabric in place to remove air bubbles and wrinkles all the way down the wall. Be sure the starch penetrates the fabric evenly.

Position the second panel, matching the design along the edge. Repeat steps.

Around windows and doors, leave a one inch overlap like you did at the top and bottom.

Fabric overlaps should be cut when the fabric is completely dry. It'll cut cleaner and easier, because any shrinkage will have already occurred.

To remove the fabric from your walls:

Peel one corner loose, then gently begin to peel the fabric off of the wall panel by panel. If the fabric doesn't peel easily, dampen the fabric with water using a wet sponge and it should come right off.


Another idea is to apply fabric wall appliqu├ęs.


Just cut out the parts of the fabric you like, and dip each piece into liquid starch. Wring out the excess liquid and smooth them onto your wall. Roll over them with a brayer...


When it's time to move out, just peel them off and wipe down your walls.
They'll look as good as new!


Last but not least, here's a hilarious video which showcases a few great decorating tips for renters.
(Why is it hilarious? Because Carl is clearly in agony during the first half of the video, and completely bored during the second half. SO funny!)


I hope that made you smile, and that you can use some of these renter-friendly suggestions.

Happy decorating!


This post was brought to you by...


"Imperfection Sign" available at Laurie Anna's for just $14.95!



Want another renter-friendly idea?
How about using paint to add some pizazz to your furniture?

Check out my Ideabook, "Give Your Furniture A Facelift With Paint", by clicking on the badge below!


Need design help?
Check out my e-book!


Sandra said...


What a great post- not only are your suggestions great for renters, they are also great for home owners who are still undecided on how to decorate or who suffer from the 'what-ifs' (as in, what if I don't like it?). Um, sort of like me!

Thanks again for the inspiration!

Karena said...

I always say, so just do it, and live life the way you want!! layla your tips are priceless!

Art by Karena

Formerly known as Frau said...

great ideas! I love the removable wall paper idea.

JR in Sweden said...

Laughing...Poor Carl!

gretchen said...

I had no idea that's how fabric as a wall covering was done...I love that idea and just may use it in my totally unfinished basement.

Susan said...

How amazing is your brain!? :D I was enjoying yesterdays post a lot! Thanx for all the tips! Have a happy day!

Sheri @ said...

Removable wallpaper?? Get.Out. I'm not a renter, but I AM non-commital - OFF TO GET ME SOME OF THAT!

Anita @ GoingALittleCoastal said...

Not too handy that Carl! lol Great ideas. And I love that aqua paper by Brewster. We lived in military housing long ago and I couldn't touch the walls but brought in color with fabrics and art and rugs. Great ideas as always!

lizziefitz said...

There is a special place in Heaven for people like you Layla. Your generous spirit is infectious:)

april said...

so many great ideas!!! the removable wallpaper one is percolating in my brain even as I write...

Lynn Kellan said...

Wow, Layla. I never thought about fabric on a wall or removable wallpaper... great ideas!!

Melissa said...

Where was this post two years ago? I am moving out of a rental house in a few weeks, and I sure wish I had known a few of these things when we moved in here!

Lou said...

Another possible idea:
Make some wall-sized wooden frames and stretch fabric over them. Nail gun the fabric over the edges. Make them in panels to easily put up against the walls. It might shrink the room a little but is a great temporary idea and doesn't rely on your 'getting it right' on the wall. What do you think?

Great clip Layla: Carl Stefanovic is a bit useless around the home it seems... and around the tv studio too by the looks (but Ch9 should never have let Jessica Rowe go!)

Anonymous said...

That video made me laugh so hard around 1:15! When the thing snaps and hits him and he says "There's a mark on my thumb!" Hahahaha.

Anyway, great post!

Debby said...

Very good ideas. I never thought about some of them. Good points. Thanks for your advice.

Geezees Custom Canvas Art said...

there are so many wonderful ideas...great post!

AnNicole@Our Suburban Cottage said...

Great post with lots of good tips! Oh, and personally I LOVE Polyvore...I Polyvore as much as possible ;).

Natalie@Endless Crafting said...

We are currently renting the house we live in. It was a model home (some crazy model home decorator went crazy with this one!)it had some of the most hideous valances throughout the home and a long entry wall that was painted with 8 foot marquee diamonds and we were left with some unsightly mirrors and weird tables that were affixed to the walls. The first thing before we moved in was paint and take down everything, put up curtains and make it ours! It's a whole new house now! We plan on putting up all those valances back when we move in a year and hope they thank us for painting over those diamonds! :)

Annie said...

Thanks for the tips! Your blog is awesome. Do you happen to know where those lights are from in the bathroom picture you posted?

Dan & Heather said...

Great Ideas! One I'd love to add, when I was renting a dinky apartment on my own I purchased several roles of contact shelf paper and wallpapered my kitchen with it, you have to be careful to get all the bubbles out, but it stuck to the wall nicely and peeled right off when I moved out!

Steph. :) said...

LAYLA you are awesome, girl! Wonderful ideas! :D

GAIL: Also check out the blogs for and resolved2worship on Xanga. They both have done fabulous things (very different styles too) on very little money to places they do not own. You will not believe it when you see their photos! Check them out.

Erin Southwell said...

This is an awesome post! the fabric and removable wallpaper ideas are genius!!

Katie Olthoff said...

That easychange wallpaper is so cool! I want some for my house!

greg's wife said...

Okay, I just laughed so hard I cried and snorted, and I nearly wet my pants! Seriously, I'm passing that one on to my family and friends for a great laugh! Thank you!!!

Emily said...

Does Leen the Graphics Queen offer just lettering so you can create your own words and phrases? I wasn't able to find an option that on her site.

naphtali said...

Fantastic solutions for us renters! I'm seriously considering getting the Lowes blinds.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post ! You have such great ideas and are up on the latest "to do's". I think lighting is so important, too. Maybe then I could cut down on my end tables that are there to hold the lamps and I woudn't be tripping over cords. Makes sense to me....

Less always is better!

Katie said...

That sign is amazing. I tell people that all the time - better to be thought insane than boring.

I like the idea of the blinds - my landlord is wonderful about letting us do pretty much whatever we want to the inside of our apartment (which means that there are a lot of wobbly edges on the painting) but I hadn't thought to bother changing the blinds in a place I was only renting.

Lettered Cottage said...

Hey Emily!

YES! Eileen can make you any ol' type of decal your heart desires!



Linda @ theLENNOXX said...

OMG so many great ideas! I am a renter too, and I HATE my walls, they are horizontal wood planks =( I'm sure the home owners would let us paint, but frankly I can't spare the time or the money haha! We'll endure, while saving that money for a house. I have been toying with the idea of hanging fabric panels though.

Thanks for all the great ideas, I might try some of them out!

Linda =)

Michelle said...

Thank you so much! I too liked your post but felt sad at the same time. We owned our last house and I had a lot of fun with it but when the military tells your hubby it's time to move you move and we live in base housing this time. We are allowed to paint the walls which is better than nothing but do you have any tips for transforming the kitchen cabinets in a temporary way?

Ann said...

I didn't know about removable wallpaper. Can't wait to check it out! And thanks for the laugh from the video. Home decor is not Carl's thing! We lived in many rental homes when my husband was in the Army and I just want to add that it's important to make your own mark on a rental home. Lots of family photos displayed and try to have a signature "theme" for each rental home. Mine was red gingham, just added a touch in curtains, pillows, etc. Makes it feel like home faster.

Gail said...

WOW. I am so sheepish...yet honored that you used my comment as inspiration for this post. Thank you so much for all the great ideas! When we were about to move in I quickly asked if we could paint..and she said yes as long as we painted it back. I think I probably didn't breath hoping she'd say yes. Phew. We're having a baby in I've got ideas up the wahzoo for the nursery...which includes painting! I like the wallpaper idea...and the curtains/blinds. I have plans to take down the ugly plastic vertical blinds in the living room and just hang curtains. I'm not telling the landlord...b/c as long as we fill the holes and rehang the blinds I don't think they care. I'm excited...and I think I'm going to go with drop cloths! Very excited. :)

Great've definitely got me motivated here. :)



Tricia said...

I saw that one coming Carl..I think I've done that myself. :D Gees, why do I have to laugh when someone is clearly in agony? Still laughing.

Kate said...

Great ideas and tips! As a renter (for now) I love to get more ideas.

Just one comment though... fabric on the walls CAN bleed even if it's been washed. I used some black fabric to cut out bird shapes and pasted then on the walls in my last apartment and when I moved out I was horrified to find that they left purple stains on the walls. The stains got worse the closer you got the the doorwall, so I think it was partly due to the sun, and the fabric was really cheap which probably didn't help. I spent a few days scrubbing the walls before I found out that bleach pens got the stain out perfectly. So, just warning to others; wash the fabric a couple times if it's dark, and don't get the insanely cheap stuff. :)

Maggie Mae said...

Great post. Here's a link to a tutorial for making Roman shades out of cheap blinds. I think this would work great for an apartment.

Miss Mustard Seed said...

I'm glad you covered fabric starching. I grew up in military housing and my mom used fabric to cover some of our walls. It worked great.

She also used contact paper to cover OD green counters. She just stuck it on and pealed it off when we moved.

*junkrestore* said...

I love this post!

My rental house had a wicked ugly formica backsplash and my friend cut out diamonds on her vinyl cutter for me and I slapped them up there in an afternoon. It added a lot of (removable) character to my otherwise vanilla kitchen.

I blogged about it at

Unknown said...

Hey the post. Carl is a crack up...was so funny seeing a fello aussie on your site. :-)

I'm building my first home (been waiting 20 years to do it) this year, and love your site. It's providing so much inspiration.


Elizabeth said...

As a fellow renter, thanks for the great question Gail! And thanks for the fabulous ideas Layla!

Emily Heizer Photography said...

That's about the sweetest post I've ever read! You are a wonderful woman Layla.

Annie said...

This was such a great post! We began renting our current place almost a year ago, and it looks nothing like the place we moved into (thank goodness)! We simply asked our landlord if he'd trust us to fix up the place (I sent in paint chips and design ideas) in exchange for a discount on our rent. He said yes! This largely depends on who you're renting from, but in our case, the landlord lives out of state and doesn't want to deal with anything himself (including maintenance issues!); that has been great for us, though, because we've been able to make our little place a home (and actually saved some money in the process!).

I know some people might think it's silly to spend money/time/energy on a "temporary" dwelling, but it's very much our home, and we were more than happy to spend a little extra money making it beautiful. (And I think the money we've saved on rent has more than made up for the money we spent on paint and small fixes!)

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

That video cracked me up. Oh Carl, what a deufus. I'll tell you though, I could listen to news shows all day when they talk in their Aussie accents! ( Just an aside) I tried to spell deufus many ways to get it right. My spell check seems to not recognize the word and wants to spell it rufus. So maybe it should be dufus or dofus or duefus. Anybody know?

Lucy said...

Hi Layla

Thank you, thank you so much for tackling this issue - I think design blogland has a lot of frustrated renters in it!

Do you have any advice about purchasing furniture in rentals, not knowing whether it will go with future places? It is tempting to stay as cheap as possible, but if you add that up it can take away from being able to get better things in the future..

Thanks so much for your tips!

Sharon@Sharon at Home said...

Great tips for renters.

Love those 3M hooks. I have Christmas art that I like to hang up and put it up on the 3M hooks and after pack it away and take down the hooks. LOVE them.

Sarah C said...

Thanks Layla!
I always enjoy your posts but as a renter it is fun to be addressed as a catagory and have some of our special needs mentioned ;o)

bethchien said...

that is hilarious when he starts moonwalking! lol

Emily said...

Seriously one of your greatest posts ever! (Not that all of your posts are incredible, because they are.) This one was just so fabulous because they are smaller ideas that I actually have time and money to tackle. I LOVE it. Love it.